Dorothy Stuart Russell (1895-1983) was born in Sydney, Australia. In 1903, following the deaths of both her parents, she was sent with her sister to England to live with their aunt in Fowlmere, near Cambridge.
Russell was educated at Perse High School of Girls, and in 1915 went up to Girton College, Cambridge. In 1918, she was awarded first-class honours in the natural sciences tripos. She was then admitted to study medicine at The London Hospital Medical College in 1919, following the College’s decision to accept women towards the end of the First World War.
She proved to be an exceptional student, and was highly influenced by Professor H,M. Turnbull, Professor of Morbid Anatomy. Although, the Hospital Committee decided in 1922 to reintroduce its ban on women medical students at The London, Russell continued to teach there, and advance in her career as a pathologist.
She qualified MRCS and LRCP in 1922, and MBBS in 1923. She then won the Sutton Prize in pathology and began work as a junior fellow under Professor Turnbull. She was awarded the degree of MD and the University Medal by the University of London in 1930. The work presented in her MD thesis was based on her 1929 publication "A Classification of Bright's Disease".
During the Second World War, Russell spent time working at Oxford University, to where many London College’s were evacuated. She carried out research in pathology during this time, which led to her publications and contributions in neuropathology, especially in the study of brain tumours.
In 1944, Russell returned to The London from Oxford. In 1946, she became the first woman to be appointed Chair of Morbid Anatomy at The London, taking over that role from her mentor, Professor Turnbull. She was the first woman to achieve such a position in Europe. She also became the head of the Bernard Baron Institute of Pathology, from which she retired in 1960.
Russell’s rigorous training in morbid anatomy gave her writings a clarity unrivalled by her contemporaries. Her influence in the development of pathology through both teaching and training, was considerable, and she was highly respected by colleagues and students alike, including Barbara Boucher.
Dorothy Russell at work, 1939.
Russell examines a brain with a medical student.
Courtesy of Royal London Hospital Archives.